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on November 8, 2015
I know this is considered a modern classic, and in many eyes, I am sure it is. Perhaps I just missed it, perhaps I didn't. But I must say that this was one of the most brutally depressing, and oftentimes hard to follow books I have ever read. I found the main character of Stephen Dedalus to at first be one I felt great sympathy for, but his rejection of his faith I found to lead only to a spiritual shrug on his part. He portrays himself so egotistically as some kind of genius artist, and yet I am still uncertain what his art really consists of other than his rejection of his faith and his forming his own spirituality/philosophy.
The book itself is exceedingly difficult to read, as the format he writes is very spontaneous and loaded with new names every few sentences of new characters, of whom the reader has no idea who they are. Chapter II was by far the best chapter, very Augustinian in its approach to sin and redemption. However, Chapter III I really could have done without - an extended, detailed and terrifying meditation on the sufferings of the damned in Hell, it has everything in it that one often associates with the stereotypical notion of "Catholic guilt". Half of the time, I was uncertain as to what was even going on with Stephen beyond that point.
Truly, this novel has moments of pure genius, and there were times where I was in love with its pages. However, at the end of it, I was left with little more than a sour taste in my mouth. A dark, murky, unclear and at times, horrifying read. A knowledge of pre-Vatican II Catholicism will definitely aid the reader in understanding at least the first three chapters.
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on May 3, 2015
This is a story of a one who is called into religious ministry but decides against it because of a romantic affair he has had. Or realistically because of the guilt and nightmarish feelings he has about the affair. Set in a Catholic country at the turn of the century the experience depicted what might have been common in those times. That being said I’m sure that feelings of guilt and shame still happen today for all the same reasons.
I really like the bit where a philosophy of art was depicted in a dialogue amongst school chums. This story is considered a classic and a literary masterpiece. Academic reviewers say that this book is a impressionist work with its monologues by shadowy background figures. I liked the flow and ease of reading. I might read it again to get below the surface and see the implicit, deep meanings.
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on March 15, 2015
Even better the second time.
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on November 26, 2013
Love what I've read so far, but potential buyer should be aware that it is a pocket-sized edition with small print.
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on March 8, 2013
Great Kindle edition of Joyce's first great novel, which seems unabridged and has not been "improved" by half-witted editors that regularly insist on changing Joyce's idiosyncratic punctuation, etc.

Portrait is at times sublime in its evocations of The Artist's thoughts and perceptions. Highly recommended on its own, and as an intoduction to one of Joyce's main characters in his magnum opus Ulysses.
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on September 6, 2012
This story is about the emergence of identity. Stephen Dedalus's consciousness is front and centre in the book as Joyce weaves together important vignettes from his life that all contribute to his hero's artistic realization. Language, as always, is vital to Joyce's understanding of how humans develop.

For instance, the first segment of the book begins with a fantastic childhood story that showcases Stephen's diction and syntactical choices--without his awareness of this fact. I enjoyed the subtle things about this part. For instance: Stephen sees his father's glasses only as "glass that his father looked at him from behind." Also, Joyce starts out the book's tacit use of Dante by rendering the regional pronunciation of "Auntie" as "Dante." That's how Stephen hears it, and that's how we do too. Another great moment is when Stephen is at boarding school and hears the gas vents "singing." He's unaware of his artistic potential, but Joyce is pointing us in that direction already.

But Joyce is not here to help us read. Rather, he wants to show us the ins-and-outs of a young boy's mind. That's a difficulty I can't blame anyone for having with his writing in general. It's something you either have to accept, deny, or shred, and then you can decide whether to read him or not. However, even if you go through those steps, you're already doing something that Joyce wanted in the first place. He's tricky that way.

In my honest opinion, a lot of people will love or hate this book. It's got dark colours throughout, gets murky when Stephen feels bad, but shines when he's on the verge of realizing himself. Joyce is destabilizing form to parallel the ups and downs of a young man's social, intellectual, and religious maturation. It's poetic that he chooses to write in this way, and particularly so for a young man. My advice is to read "Portrait" for a window into an early revelation in 20th Century English literature. If you 're happy with that, see what Virginia Woolf does with this style, and you won't be disappointed in the slightest.
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on November 8, 2007
If you're new to Joyce, this would the the book to start with. I definitely wouldn't start with Ulysses as that will put you off with its stream of consciousness. "Portrait" is much more user-friendly and easy to read. This novel is one of the greatest works in the English language. It is not only beautifully written but it can carry a different meaning for people at different stages of their life. Young high school students will find some themes very interesting while a man of 40 can draw new pleasure from reading it a second time. For those interested in Joyce's work, this is a good place to start, for it is easier than his other novels. This is not to say that it is an overly easy book to understand. Anyone who has read The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner knows that the stream of conscienceness style of writing can at times stifle reading comprehension but for the most part give a unique, exciting view of a character. Overall, though, this is an excellent novel and worthy of anyone's effort. As I said, this is a good place to start if you're looking for a Joyce induction. Would also recommend the novels "O Pioneers!" by Willa Cather and the Vonnegut book titled "Cat's Cradle"--these are something different as I don't like reading the same thing over na over.
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on July 2, 2004
Sure its pretentious, frustrating, difficult, etc., but it is also such a rewarding read. Boring sections like chapter 3 with the church sermon set up excellent ones, such as the end of Chapter 4, with Stephen's epiphany, which I must say is the most beautiful, glorious thing I have ever read. the emotion and symbolism (such as Stephen Dedalus taking flight from society much like his Greek namesake Daedalus did from an island) is simply overwhelming. I had to read this for a college english class (as well as write an essay on it) but i still enjoyed it. the stream of conciousness style may be too difficult and odd for some but i found a nice break from other literature, which is more than i can say for the similar novel To the Lighthouse by Woolf (also extremely good stylistically, but much less interesting). brilliant, but not a good introduction to joyce for those still in high school or not used to reading challenging literature. I would recommend "The Dead" to try him out first.
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on January 30, 2004
It is remarkable that such a well-crafted novel manages, as a story, to resonate so poorly. When was the last time someone referenced Stephen Dedalus in a conversation? Moby Dick, Holden Caufield, "the old man in Nabokov," Heller's Yosarian: all already have or will continue to enjoy an iconic status long after Portrait becomes the exclusive domain of a specialized readership. Portrait struck me less as a work of art to be experienced than a puzzle to be solved. Fraught with literary antecedents and allusions and word play it exemplifies the artist as cryptographer. On the plane of a puzzle, it's remarkably good fun. So, this puzzled me, and I'm sure that there is minor, obscure commentary either to answer or dismiss it as a question: When Mr. Dedalus claims that "silence, exile and cunning" shall be his weapons, what, if anything, in Portrait, with its extended conversation with the great books of the western canon, prepares us for the role of "silence" in the arsenal?
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on October 29, 2003
Unless you are a genius, you will not really enjoy this book with only one reading. Everything about this book is right, especially its literary structure. Joyce took about ten years writing it. At one point, it was a much longer book, but he chiseled it down to this jewel.
After my first reading, I felt a sense of accomplishment. But I knew there was more in the book than I got out of it. It was like Joyce dared me to reread it. My second reading was pure joy because I was able to grasp so much more of the book's structure than the first time around. He writes in stream-of-conscious, and understanding that is the real challenge. Events and creative language may appear random at first, but after looking at the novel's 'big picture,' you can see order.
The plot revolves around Stephen Daedalus' (James Joyce) coming of age, both as a young man and as an artist. Daedalus' personality and values contrast that of his Ireland, family, religion, etc. This is an auto-biography with plenty of artistic license. 'Stephen' was Christianity's first martyr. Daedalus was the creative genius in Greek mythology who made the Minotaur, the labyrinth, and Icarus' waxen wings. These types of detail pervade the novel. Take nothing for granted as you read.
This Penguin copy ISBN# 0451525442 has an excellent introduction. Do not start without reading an intro first. You will miss out.
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